Growing up playing in her father’s blues band and listening to her brother’s hip-hop records, ZZ Ward wasn’t exactly sure where she fit in the musical landscape.
But, with the help of songwriter and producer Evan “Kidd” Bogart, she’s stuck with what she loves while developing her own sound, which combines blues, soul and roots rock.
The 27-year-old Oregon native released her debut album, “Til the Casket Drops,” in October 2012.
Without any pressure or preconceived notions, recording the album was really about embracing her influences rather than running away from them, Ward said during a Monday phone interview.
“I like the sincerity of the blues, I like the drive of hip-hop music and I grew up doing blues shows and singing blues songs and I grew up doing hip-hops shows,” Ward said. “So it took me a little bit of time to figure out what I wanted to do was right in front of me. But no one was doing it.”
Ward estimated she’s played more than 300 shows around the U.S. in support of the album during the past two years. Many people are still hearing her music for the first time.
“I have so many new fans coming out, it just blows my mind,” Ward said. “It’s exciting to think I’m still a new artist to a lot of people. Some people have known about me for a year and other people are just find finding out about me, so it’s a really exciting time. It’s been a great tour so far.”
Ward’s songs have appeared on TV shows and sporting events on FOX, CBS, ABC, MTV, VH1, CW, NBC and A&E. She recently released the video for her third single from “Till the Casket Drops.” While Ward’s hip-hop comes through on the head-nodding “365 Days” and her blues background shines on “Put the Gun Down,” “Last Love Song” shows Ward at her most vulnerable. The mournful ballad has become a fan favorite. The song resonates with the intense emotion Ward strives for.
“I wrote a lot of these songs on the record to kind of help me get through situations that I had gotten in in my life that I couldn’t really get out of,” Ward said. “It was easier said than done. I used writing to kind of do the things I wanted to do before I actually had the strength to do them. So ‘Last Love Song’ is just that. It’s about letting go of a relationship and letting go of a person you’re not going to be with.”
Ward is still considering which direction she’ll take her music next, but has plenty to look forward to in coming months. She called upcoming tour dates opening for Eric Clapton a dream and said she’s excited for big summer festival dates, including stops at Bonnaroo and Coachella.
Ward performs at the Harrah’s Lake Tahoe South Shore Room Saturday, and, with hundreds of shows under her belt in the past few years, her audience should expect a well-crafted show, she said.
“I play harmonica, I play guitar, I play piano,” Ward said. “We jump around. I sing a lot. It’s a very organic show I’d say.”